Techniques! Do we have a list of them?

edited July 2013 in Story Games
This is something that's been bugging my mind since we discussed it at the Color-First? thread.
I can't put my finger on it, but I think I heard of this first in the Forge. My google-fu isn't working on this and anyway, I can't believe an actual list of techniques hasn't been make before. I'm even wondering if the community has another term for this that I've missed.

Anyway, if there's a chance nobody still understands what I'm talking about or has heard about this before, as I understood it Techniques refers to all sort of procedures triggered by ritual phrases (which may vary from group to group) that are the basic tools for negotiating the shared fiction or getting everybody to the same page of it. Maybe even more things than I'm considering.

Also, there's two things all Techniques have in common:

1) While being the most basic foundations of how we roleplay, not a single rulebook explains them, except through Actual Play examples which doesn't show them in their full potential. A few indie ones feature not the basic but some of the most rare ones as part of their procedures

2) Because of (1), all of us RPG gamers had to learn them either watching somebody else use them or the hard way, by re-inventing them while playing. As a result, most Designers think these are "instincts" or talent for GMing or good social skills, etc. and thus perpetuating the idea that rulebooks should only contain mechanics, procedures, crunch and color to work, handwaving the teaching of this and leaving it to veteran players/GMs.

3) All are verbal with gestual support, which is the main reason most designers wouldn't know how to explain them except through Actual Play examples, if any were to give them enough importance.

Now, each one of us knows and uses a quite big amount of them, either for playing or GMing (some are common to both) so I was wondering, if there isn't a list already that you could point me to, I'd really like to enlist your help to make a library of them. David Berg cared enough about Techniques to make a comic to explain the ones he needed for his game Delve. For me, this is the greatest idea since AW, so I'm thinking about making a comic to explain as much Techniques as I can find.

Uh, gtg now, so I'll post some further examples of techniques when I get home. Meanwhile if you want some eye-candy to get in the mood check this, my comic-making-fu isn't the best but is better than my google-fu anyway.
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Comments

  • edited July 2013
    That is an awesome comic about role-playing techniques...exactly the sort of thing I was looking for a couple of weeks ago, and it will form a great point of reference for the work I've just started with illustrating play examples for my current project.

    (EDIT: I now see that Dave actually did refer me to this comic when he answered my earlier thread...but my internet connection was glitchy at the time, so I didn't follow the link.)
  • edited July 2013
    We do got some tools for shared fiction in roleplaying games today. Settings, skills/moves, archetypes/classes, conflict/task resolution, stakes, domains, ritual phrases (ex. Polaris, Archipelago), personal/neutral characters and so on. But what the tools needs are instructions. What's a setting without the knowledge on how to use it? This is the main issue I have with settings today. They are more like geography and history books than elements to create a scenario from. Unknown Armies is different, where everything in the setting is written with scenario creation in mind.

    However, the above is probably not the answer you're looking for so have you looked through Playing With Intent? (See my own layout of that book.) "You will use different roleplaying techniques as you see fit, selecting and incorporating them along the way, following the flow of the game and your own personal desires."

    Also, take a look at the Jeepform techniques. "The following is an attempt at jotting down some techniques that we've invented/stolen/loved/hated/... over the years."
  • The definition from the Forge glossary might be useful here: Specific procedures of play which, when employed together, are sufficient to introduce fictional characters, places, or events into the Shared Imagined Space. Many different Techniques may be used, in different games, to establish the same sorts of events. A given Technique is composed of a group of Ephemera which are employed together. Taken in their entirety for a given instance of role-playing, Techniques comprise System.

    I'm not sure you're talking about exactly the same thing, but in any case I think there are hundreds of unique tools used by different games and GMs, and you might need a textbook to cover them all. Explaining the most common ones would be useful! Especially in bringing more people into roleplaying and GMing without feeling intimidated. Like I mentioned in the other thread, Play Unsafe is a step in this direction.
  • edited August 2014
    Basics

    Establish Clearly the rules that aren't in the game book (a.k.a. the New Zero Rule) These are usually the (sadly non-spoken, most of the times) rules about the limits of player control over the creative agenda. Players may be aware of the genre of the game, but what about specific mood details? What is a great input and what is "faux-pas"? Negotiate and express your preferences and concerns. How's the GM gonna direct the game? If she/he wants to tell a story and make players participate, define the limits of the participation. If the GM would like to make little prep and improvise everything in the fiction with the help of the players, define what can players add, assume or suggest and when. If the players don't feel like collaborating with the GM so she can tell her story, don't afraid to be honest about it. If they don't want to know which method will the GM use and when they switch, if they use both or any other method, that's also an option.

    All these options of gameplay generate different atmospheres and fun game enviroments, even when used with the same group or game. But none may work if player's arent aware of which one is being played. This technique might seem slow, but it can be speed up if the GM just states clearly which kind of gameplay he wants to apply so players know which game is going to be played and collaborate with the GM and each other to have fun.

    Scene Framing*: the GM describes a place and it's circumstances to set a base for the fictional space and situation. Information given by the scene framer can either be useful, unfocused, color or red herrings, but not unclear nor insufficient to judge and interpretate it into a fictional space.

    Place a Rail or more A Rail is an option that requires an action or sequence of actions that must be performed to get from one scene into another. Either as a player or as a GM you can suggest Rails. The GM can say "there's one door to the west and another to the north, besides the one you came through": that's three rails. There can be something obvious to do in the room, "oh, and there's a big orc in the room ready to attack you" that would be a fourth Rail, in this case, one that contains an Obstacle (see below). A player may suggest "I try talking with the orc to convince him to let us through", that would be a fifth Rail. As long as the players can choose, these are Rails. If not, it's Blocking (see the troubleshooting section)

    Place Obstacles this is a difficulty meant to make the game interesting. Players are meant to defeat it or think around it. The means to defeat the obstacle might be at their hands, otherwise this is Blocking (see the troubleshooting section)

    Embrace the Fiction. Remember to add on your description (as a GM) and acting (as a player) all the color you can, to enhance the appropiate feeling for the genre you're playing.

    "What do you do?*" is the cue that the GM uses to indicate the end of the initial description and to ask for feedback. Usually, players should refrain from interrupting the GM until this question is asked. Some GMs may use a pause and/or a hand gesture to signal this.

    "Can I do/try X?" It's common for a player who is learning the rules to ask whether the rules allow them to do what they want. In RPGs where player options depend on the fiction, players may similarly need to check with the GM or the group on whether the fiction (actually, those players' judgment of it) allows them to do what they want.

    Make questions about the fiction: Any player can ask for more information about the fiction, though any further information will consider only the point of view of his/her character and limited to all the ways it can perceive the world (sight, smell, any other skills the character can use, etc). Also, the GM can ask players questions to futher feed the fiction.

    "I look for..." this one is used when the character focuses on an specific aspect of the fictional space to get an specific information/feedback from it. It counts as a pasive interaction with the fictional space. It's also a sign that the player may have a plan for an specific input (and a cue for the GM/other players to pay attention and care about this input, and go with it if possible/plausible)

    Conflict*: passive or active interactions with the setting may trigger a problem whose outcome is uncertain and may affect furter development of the fiction. GM may declare the need for executing the conflict resolution procedure to determine the outcome or go straight to describe the outcome if this seems unneccesary for a lack of impact in the further development of the fiction.

    I try to do X this is the cue used for direct interaction of the PC with the setting, as a response to and/or to be followed by more information, a change of the situation and/or a conflict.

    "Describe that in detail" this can either be used by the GM or any player to make the GM or any player add more detailed information and/or color to the fiction.

    "If you do X, Y will/might happen"* GMs may wish to warn a player about the definite or possible results of an action they are pondering or initiating. A mix of this and the next technique is Setting Stakes, where both players and the GM make an agreement of what is at risk and what can be obtained in this challenge.

    "Are you doing X? That might not be quite so easy..." Any player in posession of any knowledge that has escaped the scene framer's attention should state it; not for the sake of ruining other's players input but to make the scene more dramatic. (another one stolen from Archipielago)

    Acting: Many players go beyond their voice in portraying their character. Snarling, staring hard, pounding a fist on the table, jumping out of a chair -- these can all add color and vividness to the imagined events. This kind of player input is more inmmersive and helps a lot to give color to the fiction.

    Demonstrating: If your game uses the specifics of character action as a causal factor, players may want to pantomime such specifics in addition to describing them verbally.

    "My character does X intraction with Y character" this is also a valid way for players to give their input, though one that isn't too inmersive. However it's more meant to let the players distance from the emotions in the fiction that may make them feel uncomfortable.

    I use my (skill or item) to try to do X if the player is familiar with the system and the GM usual techniques and their rythm, it will be usual for him/her to shorten the procedure and go straight to apply the game's conflict resolution mechanic, as long as the GM/other players validate their application in view of the current fictional situation.

    "I assume..." players may suggest the presence or absence of specific fictional content based in pre-established fictional cases or application of the setting's logic. The GM/player responsible for scene framing may confirm or deny these assumptions when applicable to their creative agenda.

    "So what is your character doing?" Anyone can ask this of a player who has gone a while without taking any game actions.

    *These are traditionally GM-only techniques, however some games also allow players license to use them when they hold complete or partial responsability for introducing setting, risks, stakes or consequences.
  • Apocalypse World pretty much explains all this stuff in great detail.
  • Not sure if this helps or not, but there is design paterns of RPGs
    http://rpg-design-patterns.speedykitty.com/doku.php
  • edited July 2013
    Adam, can you parse any of that great detail into a few list items the way WarriorMonk's doing here?

    WM, I'm not sure how many redundant techniques we want to list, but here are some more basics:

    Edit: I've now hidden the rest in a Draft, as WM's added them to his posts.
  • edited August 2014
    Basics II

    Accept other players Input. Build on it. Giving value to others players creative input and rolling with it greatly improves the group's confidence and flow of the game as players feel more and more safe abouth sharing their thoughts and open themselves more to other's players input. Also, whenever you add color details on a scene and someone picks it up and builds on it, try to make that detail important.

    Provide Input: don't wait for other's to fill the gaps in the fiction. If you've got an idea for color or are afraid something may happen in the fiction, don't be afraid to drop it. Somebody else wil probably catch it, go with it and make the fiction more interesting. (more Archipielago)

    Ask for Input: if you're suddenly without ideas, feel free to ask other players or the GM, If you're the GM, you can use "What do you think? (see below) or ask the players what their characters would like to do next.

    Do the Obvious Can't think of anything? Relax, do whatever sounds reasonable and you'll remain in character, move the story along and perhaps, even surprise everybody in the table who were thinking on a totally different approach.

    Reincorporate. Take people, objects or events from a previous scene and find ways to introduce them into a new scene that's about something else. This can help tie disparate threads together and/or add richness to what's already established.

    Introduce fallout. A type of reincorporation, but focused on results of previous events rather than the events themselves. Same benefits as reincorporation, plus an option for adding/revealing consequence to player deeds.

    Escalate. Raise the stakes and/or the costs of challenges to the player characters. Good for building toward dramatic climax, and for finding points of no return or of change for characters.

    Take a breather. Follow an intense scene with one that you expect to be more mellow.

    Show the players something unknown to the characters. Most movies and TV shows do this. It can serve the same purpose in RPGs -- introducing distant elements which will impact the characters remotely or later. This can add suspense, clarity, or simply be convenient.

    Tighten the web. Take any agents you've established but not thrown directly at the player characters... and throw them directly at the player characters. A way of building toward "wrapping up" a fictional arc.

    You can say more that one thing at once. While using your voice to comunicate information about the fiction, you can use gestures or variations of your tone to comunicate information about the game. Like, if the information about the fiction you're giving now is crucial or just color or if you're engaging a particular mechanic while you're speaking in character.

    Cheer on each other Take a moment to congratulate your fellow players for anything they do to escalate, add color, roleplay, support others or give any kind of input to the game that makes scenes more interesting, enjoyable, easier to the rest of players, etc. It can be anything from clapping, saying "wow, you're a genious!", give a thumb up, a Like on FB, a +1 on google, etc. Building on that player's input is also a good way to cheer up. This technique is better than any kind of mechanical reward, as encouragement and signs of admiration
  • Adam, can you parse any of that great detail into a few list items the way WarriorMonk's doing here?
    Not without quoting AW word for word. I mean, AW basically lists techniques in this way in its Philosophy, Principles, and so on. They're pretty succinct and punchy.

  • edited August 2014
    Troubleshooting

    "Wait! Before that, ..." This addresses the following problem: Someone at the table may advance the flow of fictional time before someone else is ready. Examples: the GM frames a new scene before a player is done with the previous one; one player narrates two long actions before another player gets a chance to narrate one short one. To address this, a player may speak up on their own behalf, or on someone else's behalf.

    Throw a Veil: when fiction goes into a situation that makes players feel uncomfortable, they can always ask to not play it in detail, have the GM advance the time and frame the next scene. In larps the equivalent is between Kutt (cut), a safeword to completely halt the game on emergencies, and Brems (slow down) a signal from one or more players that the situation has gone too uncomfortable for them, to indicate the rest of the players to go easier on physical interactions, or change the subject of the current scene.

    Check-in this is a code word used ingame to assess or gaugue another players state; essentially if the player is OK and want to continue playing. Used primarily in situations where you are unsure if the person actually want to continue a difficult scene but, for whatever reason, can't convey this. Unless you get a yes in response to the check-in, you are supposed to Cut and talk the situation through.

    Rewinding the scene: when too many inconsistences arise in the fiction (because of scene framer mistakes at describing the fiction or sharing information crucial for player's decision), the player in charge for scene framing or the rest of the players can ask for going back to a previous point of the story and play again from there, usually not more than one scene back. If there's consensus, it gets done. Note that this should only be used in extreme cases since it totally breakes inmersion.

    Help people move on when they're stuck: Sometimes players will continue to tackle a problem beyond when it's actually fun. Whoever notices this (usually the GM, who isn't caught up in the attempt) can take a step back and remind the others of why giving up now isn't awful. Frequent reasons include: 1. you have learned something, which will inform later attempts -- you have a new puzzle piece, now you just need to find more pieces elsewhere, 2. you have learned something, which may help you elsewhere even if it doesn't help you here, 3. it has become clear that there is a reason no one has solved this before you, and it may not even be solvable right now, 4. there are other time-sensitive mattes that require your attention, 5. there are other fun things to do.

    And a particular way to do this without breaking too much the fiction:
    Tablet of Player Instructions: This technique uses a piece of equipment or any other device to relay players tips and instructions on how to procede further in each stage of the game. It can easily be limited in many ways, like offering the information in riddles, only tips, using it may reduce amount of xp obtained, or as the original idea stated: the GM only informs when the writing on the tablet changes, and players must check on it then or probably miss the advice at all.

    "What happened with X character?" As a player, feel free to ask the GM for news of the destiny of any PC or NPC that hasn't been mentioned in the fiction lately. Either if your character can access that information inmediatly or not, the GM will probably thank you for the reminder and include that later.

    What do you think? As a GM/player in charge of scene framing, you can throw questions from other players right back at them, hear their opinion and use their feedback to fuel the fiction further. (Yep, this is Witch Mountain)

    Cede a decision to a die roll. During a moment when you need to declare what happens, but are not comfortable doing so, you can instead declare some possibilities and roll (or have someone else roll) to choose between them. Reasons for discomfort include social awkwardness, creative stall-out, indecision, and more.

    Sharing/investing authority When a player shies away from involving their character in the story, the GM or other player can try this technique to bring that player out of their shell. Basically, the GM or player concedes the PC of the shy player some sort of authority over a temporal aspect of the fiction. This makes the rest of the players look up/root out for this character and stand off in the fiction. Well done, this small token of social recognition helps the player loosen up and play with confidence. Poorly executed may be taken as condescending, so use carefully.

    Shifting the focus: if a player gets a case of stage fright, shift the scene focus to another player, NPC or other enement in the fiction; you can always come back to that player later and give some assistance if needed, but sticking with him/her and stalling the game for this won't make them feel better about it. There's a hard use of this technique too (it may generate complaints from the players so use it with care) and it's when one player decides to engage an aspect of the fiction that makes the majority of the players uncomfortable and/or threatens to change the current mood that most people on the table is enjoying. Ask before you shift the focus, there may be more people interested in the subject than you think. Check the next two techniques too.

    Repair the Illusion: either if the GM's input breakes the inmersion (like when forcing players into a specific course of action, etc.) or if one or more of the players breakes the inmersion (by introducing elements that won't fit the fiction or engaging in a rules related dispute, etc.) that person or the rest of players at the table can help repair the damage, by reinterpretating whatever was said in a more plausible way. Repairing the illusion will always have priority over who was right, though talking about the issue outside the game and make proper ammends later in the game isn't out of question.

    Keep making things happen either as a player and more important, as a GM, you shouldn't allow the questions and discussion over the fiction go on forever. Make monsters attack if players are still planning their moves after ten minutes, interrupt them, call one apart or send notes to a player whose character isn't involved in the discussion. Yet, make sure all players are on the same page on the fiction before doing that.
  • I think you should have a section that says "These are traditionally GM-only techniques, however..."
  • Since I'll make this into a comic later, I think for now I'll just add a foot-note of that K-bob. Hmm, actually, it seems this may help me keep a lower word count too!
  • I'm really looking forward to this as a comic, WM!
  • A thing I did that might be useful to rip apart towards this: Fundamentals Of Tabletop Roleplaying.

  • edited July 2013
    I do think a trad GM section might help to break up what will otherwise be very, very long lists.

    Here are some things to add to that list (and/or Troubleshooting), loosely inspired by Apocalypse World:

    Ask questions about the characters' hopes, fears, theories and experiences. Asking the players about what their characters want, or have done, or feel threatened by, allows them to help you invent needed setting and situation details. If you ask them for theories on a mystery, they can even help you invent a plot or back-story!

    Edit:
    - I've now deleted the rest, as WM's added them to his posts

    - WarriorMonk, I see that you've listed the above technique under "prep". Maybe that's a good call for organization reasons, but if so, the description should be amended to include "this can be done before play or in the middle of play". Because it totally can! Or perhaps those are two different techniques?
  • edited August 2014
    GM-only Techniques

    Ask questions about the characters' hopes, fears, theories and experiences. Asking the players about what their characters want, or have done, or feel threatened by, allows them to help you invent needed setting and situation details. If you ask them for theories on a mystery, they can even help you invent a plot or back-story!

    Use open ended questions: these are useful not only on character creation but also through the game; the idea is to put the players on a spot and let them make their way out with their own imagination, but keeping all the consequences implicit in their answers for future use. The amount of material you can built over player's input has no limit as long as you, as a GM, can handle unexpected twists. The thing to have in mind is that these unexpected twists are meant to be the best part of the story, if you can let them happen and just improvise how these change everything, you're up for a different kind of fun, one that requires you to prep no more than the Bangs (the starting premise of the adventure) and some obstacles, but not how are players supposed to solve or advance past them.

    Address your GMing to the characters (not the players). This can help remind players to get in character, and remind everyone who's playing whom.

    When you have permission/responsibility to do something bad to the characters, here are some options that introduce risk, drama, and/or obstacles: separate them, capture someone, announce bad news, take their stuff, make them buy, activate their stuff's downside, tempt them, and employ an established threat (the bomb goes off, the monster attacks, etc.). "Them" and "stuff", beyond the obvious, can also include valued NPCs.

    To introduce horror: use the principles above as much as you can, use a more lethal final boss but keep it out of reach until the end. Let players run and hide, but don't give them any chance to beat it. Never show it: let players imagine what it could be, based on fragmented information and the slight traces of it's presence along the session. Don't be afraid to describe irrational scenes. Never explain them. The less control the PCs have of the situation, the better mood you'll get for the game.

    Lie to the characters, be honest with the players. There are all sorts of fun reasons to mislead the player characters, but don't let this seep into your interactions as people! No one likes playing a game when they are misled about how the game works.

    Script a revelation: Concoct an important secret, work toward getting the players invested in it, and pick just the right moment to confront them with a shocking surprise, an answer to their questions, or both. If you can do this without infringing upon the agency the players want/expect, the Big Reveal can be an exciting and memorable moment for author and audience alike.

    Make your NPCs real. Identify their motives and what makes them tick, and play them based on that. This helps create believable and memorable NPCs, and can help inspire you for what to do with them.

    Take a break. Better to pause too soon and come back refreshed than to tax people's creative and social energy until they burn out!

    Pause before the climax. This often means "pause before the die roll". If there's a need to cut between separate characters in separate scenes, cutting at the dramatic peak will ensure that everyone remembers where the scene left off and is invested in picking it back up. (Think timing of commercials in TV shows.)

    Manage Spotlight: The attention of the GM focuses the attention of the group. When scenes drag, it’s often the GM that moves the group along. More outspoken players will probably steal the spotlight, that's ok, but it's the GM's work to give the spotlight back to the less active players and have everybody do something in the story. (thanks Levi)

    Manage Pacing: from slow-mo descriptions to scenes framed ten or more years after the last one, you can make the story move to better fit the game flow. Players can also help you hamdle this through their suggestions, listen to them.

    Opposite techniques are also appropriate In different circumstances "Discard your prep", "Address your GMing to the players", "Ad-lib your NPCs to meet the needs of the moment", "Tell characters about their experiences", "Decide a roll isn't needed", "Keep playing while the playing's good", and "Find a good stopping point" all have their uses too.

    "Yes, but..." This technique is meant to approve an specific player input and build a complication to the fictional situation with it. It can also be integrated on dice interpretation. Sinbce this technique tends to block player input, it's best recommended to use it when a situation is about to resolve but feels like it's too early/too easy, or if the GM has a really good idea about how to keep flow going from there.

    "No, but..." This technique is meant to negate the influence of a specific player input to the fiction, yet adding some hope for resolution. It can also be integrated on dice interpretation.

    I assume that you have... This is a technique the GM uses when she identifies a problem that the PCs will otherwise have to face, but isn't actually interesting as a challenge. So, instead of asking the players how they will solve the problem, the GM keeps the story going on making the assumption that the characters have already thought of this problem and have a way to solve it easily. There are some troubles that are actually ridiculous to present to the players, so this may be a good option in those cases.

    Introduce time pressure for the characters. Adds tension and excitement. Prevents aimless play. Prevents persisting in something past when it's fun. Common functional types of time pressure: 1. countdowns (in fictional time) to bad events, 2. however long you spend, something gets worse. Common flavors of time pressure: 1. death or danger is coming, 2. danger is going to exceed an acceptable threshold, 3. something you want is going to be lost, 4. something you care about is going to be hurt or ruined.

    And a particular way to do this:

    Introduce time pressure for the players. Can add tension and excitement. Can model the characters' experience or opportunities. When the characters face a sudden emergency, if the players take however long they want to determine an optimal response, this might reduce the challenge, immersion, plausibility, or drama of the experience. An alternative is for the GM to give the players the amount of time the characters would have to choose their actions. Another option is to find an in-between pace such as a verbal countdown of 3, 5, or 10 seconds.

    Signal Railroading: Whenever you want to comunicate an aesthetic experience to the rest of the players, use this sign to ask them permission to temporarily relinquish agency rights from them. The sign can be a phrase, a change in your tone, a hand signal or it can be mixed with a game mechanic. (note: railroading is not recommended for newbie GMs nor new groups)

    This is part a GM-only technique and part a technique for narrative management (see in media res below)

    What must happen has already happened.
    If the GM has developments that they are determined to insert into the fiction, the GM may choose to do this before play begins. They may choose this for various reasons: to kickstart the energy, to establish a mood, or to avoid the need for force, railroading, or illusionism.

    It's not about the dice. If as a GM you care more about being a fan of the player's characters, you can be open to the players about how you handle things behind the screen. Explain that you roll dice for inspiration and to decide how the story may advance, instead of just Blocking, Railroad or building an illusion or being true to the rules as written. If you're GMing to see what happens and your gameplay may certainly benefit from trusting each other completely, this is a technique you can use.
  • edited July 2013
    Did anyone already mention Do the Obvious from Graham W's Play Unsafe ?

    That bit of technique was a super important item from his book, and when I read it (and the explanation for why it was important), well it was just mind expanding for me personally.
  • edited July 2013
    Ok, this will have to be it for now. I added all that I could think off, couldn't find anything else useful in the Forge, and added some AW too, though I prefer not to mix principles and techniques. The former bring up the latter along the game almost sponaneously, though it's easier if you know the main techniques to begin with. I've just posted this in my blog so next I'll start to translate it into spanish to make the comic. I'll let you know how it goes, but if you come up with another technique in the meantime just post it here and I'll try to add it. Thanks everybody for their help!
  • While theese are larp oriented, they still do have a place here.*

    http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/Category:Techniques

    http://nordiclarp.org/wiki/Meta_Techniques



    *(Because no one has been in my opinion been able to come up with a better way to draw a line between larp an tabletop then the bcharming "If you standing, than it is a larp")
  • Amazing! And yes, it's true, larp is just heavier on advanced techniques and amount of time spent in-character, otherwise there's no difference, except if you count in the emotional output (which I believe if higher in larps)

  • *(Because no one has been in my opinion been able to come up with a better way to draw a line between larp an tabletop then the bcharming "If you standing, than it is a larp")
    Difference between tabletop RPG, LARP, and jeepform, for discussion of that comment. =)
  • edited August 2013
    A few more Scene Framing techniques, inspired by in part by Bobs, Weaves and Crosses from Sex & Sorcerery:

    Reincorporate. Take people, objects or events from a previous scene and find ways to introduce them into a new scene that's about something else. This can help tie disparate threads together and/or add richness to what's already established.

    Introduce fallout. A type of reincorporation, but focused on results of previous events rather than the events themselves. Same benefits as reincorporation, plus an option for adding/revealing consequence to player deeds.

    Take a breather. Follow an intense scene with one that you expect to be more mellow.

    Escalate. Raise the stakes and/or the costs of challenges to the player characters. Good for building toward dramatic climax, and for finding points of no return or of change for characters.

    Show the players something unknown to the characters. Most movies and TV shows do this. It can serve the same purpose in RPGs -- introducing distant elements which will impact the characters remotely or later. This can add suspense, clarity, or simply be convenient.

    Tighten the web. Take any agents you've established but not thrown directly at the player characters... and throw them directly at the player characters. A way of building toward "wrapping up" a fictional arc.

    And, sort of the opposite of Sorcerer, here's a GM technique:

    Script a revelation: Concoct an important secret, work toward getting the players invested in it, and pick just the right moment to confront them with a shocking surprise, an answer to their questions, or both. If you can do this without infringing upon the agency the players want/expect, the Big Reveal can be an exciting and memorable moment for author and audience alike.
  • edited September 2013
    Techniques for Narrative Management

    Act structure: This is when a game is divided into distinct acts, parts, chapters, episodes or otherwise called parts with a designated start and stop. In some games the whole game is one act, thus making it a one act structure. Other games have more acts, that are defined by a start and an end, with an act brake between the acts. Usually the drama of a game is focused on different themes in different acts, or just an accelerating drama with a climax and a resolution in the last act following a classic formula dramatic arc.

    In Media Res This means the story begins to be played from the middle or near the conclusion, and at some point the players do a flashback scene.

    Black Box (or calling players aside): Also known as meta room, a black box is a room where players may go during the game to play scenes that don't fit into the here-and-now of the game or whose development must remain a secret to other players. Room may or may not include controlled lights and/or sound effects and might also be used for playing/dancing a symbolic version of something that is meant to be happening in-game, such as two characters fighting or having sex.

    Flashback means framing an scene that shows past events on the fiction's timeline. The main constraint is that it must present the same elements that will be there in a future scene to keep coherence with the future.

    Flashforward means framing a scene that shows a possible future on the timeline of the fiction. This scene can be something to play towards, or to show possible futures of a character or relationship. It can also be used to reflect on what is happening at the moment.

    Monologue can be used by a player partly or completely outside of the fiction's space and time. This can either interrupt all other play or go on alongside. The monologue is a tool to give other players insight into the speaking characters story and create game openings between them. It has the added benefit of making the speaking player feel like a main protagonist and give them closure to their own story.

    Dream Scene A dream sequences or imaginary scenes are possible as they play out in the heads of a character. This is a kind of cut scene where the director or players can explore the minds of the character, just like a monologue, without these things actually happening.

    Epilogue Either narrated by th GM as a monologue or with the intervention of the rest of the players, it's a scene meant to end the story explaining what really happened, summarizing the main events of the story, the consequences in the setting and/or what happened to the main characters of the story thereafter. This could also be the moment for adjudicating experience points for some systems. In larps this is part of a more complicated technique called Aftercare, which includes a set of procedures to help players cool down, process what happened in the fiction, and more.

    Parallel Scenes: Two different scenes with different characters can take place in the story at the same time. Having this in mind, action on one can be interrupted to play what happens at the other and then back. Also, both scenes can be played simultaneously if the conditions allow it (players divide in two or more groups in different rooms or keep their voices low enough to not interrupt or distract the other groups)

    Focus Scene: This technique has the GM or player interrupting all parallel scenes to unify the action again. It's often an Scene Framing that reincorporates all or most characters back, sometimes recounting whatever happened at the different parallel scenes. The usual way to apply this is by starting suddenly to talk loud enough and look at everyone with an open arms gesture until all players pay attention, then lower your arms and continue in normal voice.

    Playing to lose is a technique or concept used by a player to create better drama by not trying to win, letting their character lose. It is used in a collaborative play style rather than a competitive play style, and is a clear anti-gameism statement from Dramatists as outlined in the article The three way model from As Larp Grows Up.

    And... scene can be used to end a scene and change to another, and doubles as a technique for safe interactions, to cut the fiction when some of its content becomes uncomfortable for any player.

    Soundtrack: while it isn't anything new to play RPGs with background music, it can certainly improve the whole experience to make the theme playing fit the mood of the scene, or in some games, use the theme playing randomly as an inspiration to switch the mood of the scene.

    For your Eyes Only Whenever the GM wants to exchange information with one or more players but not the whole group, as a means to create suspicion between the PCs, passing notes back and forth works as a good signal that something is happening behind the players. Works amazingly to capture all player's attention, even if the notes are meaningless. Players can also use this between themselves or give the notes to the GM when they are trying to do something behind someone's back.

    "You don't suck, he's just that good...or maybe just lucky"
    : It's inevitable that a player is going to fail a roll during an action scene, and there's a strong tendency to narrate that as a PC blunder of some kind. Don't do that. Seriously, don't. Don't say he swings and misses: say that his opponent manages to block the attack. Don't say he slips and falls: say the rock he's pulling himself up by crumbles unexpectedly. Especially do this when it supports the PC's concept: the world's greatest driver doesn't lose the race because he's too clumsy to make a turn without crashing, he loses because some idiot backed a truck out of an alley and finding a way around him took too much time.

    Never do the same thing twice. There should never be a round where someone says "I guess I try to attack him again" or whatever. Add descriptive flair to every manuever or event, so that even if mechanically your npc is "just attacking" again, last time she was "leaping behind the desk and popping off a round" and this time she "barrell rolls from the desk to the chair, firing wildly." Just mix up descriptions for everything, no matter if the rules engage those particular manuevers differently or not. Stuff like that keeps it fresh. Best case scenario, these fictional details add tactical depth. Worst case scenario, at least every round sounds and feels different, even if the same dice are getting rolled.
  • edited August 2013
    Safe in-character interaction techniques

    Ars Ordo: In Ars Ordo, social status is tested through masculine staring contests, which escalate until one party gives up. The challenge starts with casual everyday eye contact: In most cases, one party yields quietly early on by lowering her gaze before the contest gathers more witnesses. If neither contestant looks down, the contest escalates. The contestants move towards each other, starting to draw an audience. The contest then escalates into growling, snarling and trying to look as big as possible. As the whole tribe is watching at this point, the social investment on the contest is much larger than in the beginning. If the contest still remains unsettled, the witnesses start to take sides, shaking the entire hierarchy of the tribe.

    The beauty of Ars Ordo is in that one party invariably yields, and the losing side of the contest feels the loss very personally: After all, this kind of a masculine contest is always also a nondiegetic contest between players.

    Ars Amandi is a Nordic mechanic for simulating romance or sex in the game. The full mechanic permits players to touch permitted zones (arms, shoulders, sternum, upper back, and neck below the ears) using permitted boydparts (hands, arms, neck) It’s a method for doing things in a game in a way that makes the character experience them fully, enabling play and really going for the energy without the player ending up in messy situations.

    Phallus is a technique that uses a gender-free prop to initiate and represent intimate scenes.

    Feather Play uses color-coded feathers (could be other objects) as a cue to initiate different kinds of interaction that have their own mechanics, so every player knows what to expect and prepare better for the next scene.

    The Liquor on the Table: By this technique you put a bottle (or more) of liquor on the table to signal the players that their characters are getting more drunk, whether or not they are drinking real alcohol, and it's time to take out the last of the conflicts and intrigues that have been building up throughout the game.
    For games with a planned dramaturgical curve where the setting is a social scene that includes alcohol, this gives the players a hint that the game is nearing it's end and it's time to bring out the last of the juice. Other things than liquor can of course be used, the main function is for the players to know when to intensify their play.
  • edited August 2014
    Character creation / setting creation techniques (?)

    Ball of Yarn: this is a game prep technique to help players generate relationships between their characters.

    The players sit in a circle. One of them holds the end of a thread from a ball of yarn. The player who holds the ball throws it to another person in the circle, while making a statement about the relationship between the two. Examples: "I am usually very happy when you enter the room" or "we had an argument at the fishing trip last summer, but have since been the best of friends." The player who receives the ball grabs onto the thread, while passing along the ball and defining a relationship with a different player. On a variant, the player who receives the ball throws it back defining the relationship from their character's side, adding to what the other player said. By watching the growing web of yarn, participants become aware of who already has plenty of relationships and who need more. The exercise ends when everyone has sufficients relationships, usually two or three per player.

    Ask questions about the characters' hopes, fears, theories and experiences.
    Asking the players about what their characters want, or have done, or feel threatened by, allows them to help you invent needed setting and situation details. If you ask them for theories on a mystery, they can even help you invent a plot or back-story! Note: it can also be done in-game if it hasn't been done before or if the situations have changed the characters too deeply.

    Fate: used primarily in LARPs this technique gives a different instruction to each player that they should be able to achieve easily, with the challenge being more about achieving it in an interesting an meaningful way. Different player's fates may be connected, providing each player doesn't know about other's fate. On TTRPGs this could also take the form of different principles, guides, motivations, objectives, end-game or victory conditions, alignment or in-game foreshadowing.

    Masks: another powerful tool from LARPs, the use of masks to represent that a player has turned into a character is actually as old as humankind itself. Doubles as a character creation technique and a technique for safe interaction in the way that it liberates the player from a lot of social constrains regarding their own identity. Masks can be given any shape, color, predominant emotion, can be taken off, broken, carved, burned, etc and all of these actions will have powerful meaning by itself.

    Person Within: You can use a pre-existant character from any fiction or the personality of a real person you know as a base for creating a character, and use their mood, preferences and ideology to fill in any blanks or situations encountered in the game.

    Shadows: A technique where a player has a shadow, a person that follows the player around and can interact on an in-game-, and/or meta-level with the player. This shadow can for instance portray a players conscience or voices in the players head (and as such the shadow does not exist to other players), or could be something semi-real like a posessing spirit or guardian angel (and then the shadow may or may not exist for other players).

    Alternate You: technique meant to create a character you're inmediatly familiarized with, based on your own personality/skills. Give or take variations in the circumstances around, this allows to quicly generate characters that players can interpretate with proper depth and as much fidelity to the inspiration as they want.

  • edited August 2013
    A variant of Ball of Yarn, is the the one who receives the ball responds on the relationship. By doing that, both people get to say something about the relation. Statement: "We had an argument at the fishing trip last summer" - Response: "...but have since been best friends."
  • edited September 2013
    ...

  • Aaaaand I think I'm done with the list for now, I'll translate this to spanish to start working on the comic. However if you've got any other techniques you use that you don't see mentioned here, feel free to post them. Later I'll take time to actualize the post I made on this on my blog. Thanks everyone for your help and time, I hope somehow this list helps you too!
  • After reading part of the Railroading post added Repairing the Illusion on the Troubleshooting section.
  • What a great thread!
  • edited December 2013
    "You don't suck, he's just that good...or maybe just lucky": It's inevitable that a player is going to fail a roll during an action scene, and there's a strong tendency to narrate that as a PC blunder of some kind. Don't do that. Seriously, don't. Don't say he swings and misses: say that his opponent manages to block the attack. Don't say he slips and falls: say the rock he's pulling himself up by crumbles unexpectedly. Especially do this when it supports the PC's concept: the world's greatest driver doesn't lose the race because he's too clumsy to make a turn without crashing, he loses because some idiot backed a truck out of an alley and finding a way around him took too much time.
    This reminded me of something I do as GM, which is to recontextualize what's going on in the fiction without changing any fictional facts. The best example is when the players are begin to get frustrated attempting to solve some problem I can see they aren't going to solve. At that moment, I'll remind them of what they did learn, and why this isn't solvable now, and what they might need to do before taking another stab at it later. Here's an attempted write-up:

    Under troubleshooting:

    Help people move on when they're stuck. Sometimes players will continue to tackle a problem beyond when it's actually fun. Whoever notices this (usually the GM, who isn't caught up in the attempt) can take a step back and remind the others of why giving up now isn't awful. Frequent reasons include: 1. you have learned something, which will inform later attempts -- you have a new puzzle piece, now you just need to find more pieces elsewhere, 2. you have learned something, which may help you elsewhere even if it doesn't help you here, 3. it has become clear that there is a reason no one has solved this before you, and it may not even be solvable right now, 4. there are other time-sensitive mattes that require your attention, 5. there are other fun things to do.

    Oh, and this just reminded me of another GM technique:

    Introduce time pressure for the characters. Adds tension and excitement. Prevents aimless play. Prevents persisting in something past when it's fun. Common functional types of time pressure: 1. countdowns (in fictional time) to bad events, 2. however long you spend, something gets worse. Common flavors of time pressure: 1. death or danger is coming, 2. danger is going to exceed an acceptable threshold, 3. something you want is going to be lost, 4. something you care about is going to be hurt or ruined.

    And a particular way to do this:

    Introduce time pressure for the players. Can add tension and excitement. Can model the characters' experience or opportunities. When the characters face a sudden emergency, if the players take however long they want to determine an optimal response, this might reduce the challenge, immersion, plausibility, or drama of the experience. An alternative is for the GM to give the players the amount of time the characters would have to choose their actions. Another option is to find an in-between pace such as a verbal countdown of 3, 5, or 10 seconds.
  • I've used an egg timer for player "turns." We had a very large group and had to keep the spotlight moving around. It worked great.
  • This is a wonderful thread! Would there be interest if I turned it into a little e-book as a holiday freebie, say .ePub, .mobi, and .pdf formats? Maybe we could host it on the wiki?
  • I think Paulo's going to turn it into comics! That takes a long time, though, so if you feel you can organize the content and make it presentable in short order, I'd certainly be cool with that. Feel free to use any of the stuff I wrote.
  • Here we go, I crunched the list into ebook files. Feel free to redistribute from a more appropriate or visible location. Thanks for the compilation, and happy holidays to everyone!
  • Great job! :)
  • Lacking "techniques", my five-year-old invented what I have nicknamed the Tablet of Player Instructions for the stories he leads me through with the RPG he invented. You can read about it here.
  • Lacking "techniques", my five-year-old invented what I have nicknamed the Tablet of Player Instructions for the stories he leads me through with the RPG he invented. You can read about it here.
    How adorable! ^_^
  • Cute and clever kid!
  • Thanks a lot Anemone, this is great! I'm sorry it's taking so long to turn it into comics, current projects are still slowing me down on that but I'll get to it eventually. And DavidVS, that's such a great technique I'm definitely including it on the list! :D
  • After reading the thread about Fanmail: limits and possibilities I added "Cheer on each other" to the list of Basics. I still can't believe how can people play without this!
  • After watching a Braunsteins video I added "I assume you have..." to the GM-only techniques.
  • edited August 2014
    After reading a few of the threads about Illusionism, Participationism and Railroading, I added Establish Clearly the rules that aren't in the game book (a.k.a. the New Zero Rule) in the Basics section, and expanded the Shifting the Focus technique on the Troubleshooting section.
  • edited August 2014
    Added Cementing and some other stuff on the GM techniques section; many thanks Rickard, very interesting stuff!
  • edited August 2014
    [duplicate post]
  • I don't know if this counts as a technique, but what the hey...

    It's not about the dice. One of the first things that I do is show the players my favorite dice, a set of blank black cubes. "These are my GM dice." I then roll them behind the screen and describe something favorable like a messenger catching up with the party and offering important news. I may or may not look at the dice when I do that. It's my way of saying "trust me".
  • Great way of building trust! Added!
  • edited August 2014
  • edited August 2014
    Two techniques to add, two to critique.

    Additions:

    Bang for their buck. When players purchase game abilities, the GM may arrange the fiction to make those abilities "pay off". Example: the GM had planned to leave the King in the background, but when the player spends his advancement on the "King's confidant" Advantage, the GM resolves to make the King a more prominent character. Note: there are ways to give players bang for their buck that do not require GM authority, such as one player aiming his character at another player character's strengths or interests.

    I dunno if this belongs in "GM-only" or if the note at the end means it should go somewhere else...

    Another one:

    Mask your ad-lib. When the players ask to know something about the fictional world, they may not enjoy watching the GM invent or roll for the answer, as it may ruin their illusion that the fictional world is a real place. Accordingly, the GM may pretend to search his notes or memory for the answer, maintaining the illusion that an answer already exists. During this "search" time, the GM can covertly invent or roll as necessary. Note: don't let misdirection become a crutch! Do it only to support the group, and always admit it if the players ask!

    Critique:
    Cementing instead of taking away player's agency, railroad, use illusionism, etc (use the term of your choice) through the use of unavoidable scenes, you just start the game establishing that the unavoidable scene that triggers the whole adventure has already happened. It sets the tone of the game.
    Nice entry, but I find the name and wording confusing. Here's what I'd propose:

    What must happen has already happened. If the GM has developments that they are determined to insert into the fiction, the GM may choose to do this before play begins. They may choose this for various reasons: to kickstart the energy, to establish a mood, or to avoid the need for force, railroading, or illusionism.
    It's not about the dice. One of the first things that I do is show the players my favorite dice, a set of blank black cubes. "These are my GM dice." I then roll them behind the screen and describe something favorable like a messenger catching up with the party and offering important news. I may or may not look at the dice when I do that. It's my way of saying "trust me".
    Huh. I get that a GM might want to say "it's not about dice, I'm running things, so just trust me". But I don't understand what fake-rolling blank dice adds to that. Shouldn't you just not have dice at all?
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